We had really looked forward to a visit to the Marrakech tanneries but, unfortunately, our visit was 100% spoilt by scam artists: first day in Morocco - first day in Marrakech - we were absolutely thrilled to be able to immerse ourselves in the souks. Having left the Jamaa el Fna Place, we spent the morning walking the innumerable alleyways of the city, pushing on deeper and deeper into the heart of the souks. We should have learnt our morning lesson - clearly not... (I'm reviewing the souk experience separately) as we were taken in by a young man who casually and briefly approached us, simply saying 'the tanneries are that way - it's a special day at the tanneries today but you've got to hurry 'cos they're gonna pack up soon', quickly followed by 'You're lucky [pointing at another young man], he lives there and he's going home - he'll walk with you'. YEAH - RIGHT! Note that we did not agree to being led in any way, shape or form but quickly realised that the guy who was supposed to 'live there' was in fact just a cog in a big tourist scam wheel. He was ominously there every step of the way, always just a few feet away from us and we were just unable to shake him loose. In hindsight, we should simply have given up on our intention to visit the tanneries and gone off in a completely different direction or even backtracked and gone back to the main Jamaa el Fna. Anyway we did neither as we were determined to see the tanneries and were so close - and pressed on towards the location. On arrival, the guy who'd kept a few paces ahead of us all seemed to say his good-byes - and we breathed a small, cautious, guarded, hopeful but, alas, entirely misplaced, sigh of relief. We were very quickly handed small mint posies on passing through the entrance to the yard and before we knew it, a man undertook to lead us through the actual place, quickly and ultimately taking us to (you've guessed it)...the leather goods shop. A couple were just leaving the back room of the shop and as they passed us, I heard the man say quietly to us 'good luck'. We took this as our cue and having been asked to sit down, we declined, turned and walked out - only to be confronted by the man who had marched us around the various tannery vats, flanked by the young guy who 'walked with us on his way home' and a couple of other men who appeared out of nowhere... We quickly walked out of the compound and found ourselves in a very open, and totally deserted, area, and had absolutely no idea as to where we were. The 'team' all joined forces to demand money for the 'tour' - to the tune of 200 dirhams, which we were not prepared to pay given that the whole thing was clearly an organised scam and that the 'tour' proved to be next to useless and unsolicited. In a matter of seconds, a rather unpleasant exchange took place, with my husband putting his foot down and making it clear that while he would be handing over a tip, no way was it going it be anywhere near the 200 dirham mark. All this took place as we walked away from what I took to be the back gates of the tanneries, with the 'gang' following us and at one point pulling my husband back by the arm. I experienced a few (interminable) moments of panic, I have to admit, and imagined that it could take but a split second for us to be in real trouble - as I said, there was noone else around and the situation felt rather dangerous to me. We did manage to walk and find our way back to the main square - eventually.
My recommendation: if you do want to see the tanneries, splash out on a registered guide - don't waste your time, money and peace of mind trying to do this on your own.
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